God is not a role model.
God is the source of life, the force of all goodness, the basis of all justice. God is Love. And God is Spirit. Not “a spirit,” according to Jesus, just Spirit.
This means, at the very least, for us to “see God,” God must be made manifest in some tangible way or through some personal experience. God is always “communicated” through something else, probably, most powerfully for the two-legged creature called human beings, through other human beings. God is not a role model.
That’s what leaders are for.
Without someone to interpret God for us (or, for that matter, to interpret goodness, justice, honesty, integrity, etc.), without someone or something, a sacred text, an inspirational experience, to make visible the invisible, “God” can come to mean almost anything. On 9/11 a handful of crazed men flew a loaded commercial airliner into a crowded New York skyscraper because “God” told them to do so.
If only they had had a proper role model.
In 1993 NBA All Star, Charles Barkley, made headlines for proclaiming, “I’m not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” He was right about the qualifications for raising kids, but he’s still wrong about being a role model. It is naïve and irresponsible to be a public figure, especially with the media-soaked visibility that celebrity status gives, and abdicate taking responsibility for your words or your actions.
This week our President again made the headlines by keeping a campaign promise to “shake things up.” Again he shook things up with a disparaging comment about yet another woman’s face. Men and women from across the congressional spectrum stepped up to take the President to task for his demeaning words, for conduct lacking in common courtesy, much less Presidential decorum.
Amidst all the understandable furor, the White House Deputy Press Secretary dismissed the (un)Presidential tweet completely and defended her boss’s indefensible behavior by suggesting the President of the United States is not a role model anyway. "When it comes to role models… we all have one perfect role model… I point to God.”
I spent the day yesterday with a dark pall hanging over my emotions. It is a sad day for the children of our nation, when those closest to the President have to defend him, by telling them, in effect: The President is not a role model.
And it is a sad day because I know I will be criticized for these comments, accused of speaking out of a biased partisanship. My concerns have absolutely nothing to do with party affiliation. Concern for the spiritual and moral leadership of a nation, or the lack thereof, has always been the purview of the religious vocation.
And when the White House specifically steps into the religious world, offering bad theology to defend bad behavior, I feel justified to speak.
God is not a role model, and it's high time some among us stepped up to the responsibility.
Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldaña